Frank Sinatra

It Happened Here: When Frank Sinatra Took on Bob Hawke, 1974

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Frank Sinatra

World-famous people have often done world-famous things during their visits to Australia. Michael Adams recounts some of the most memorable of those incidents.

“Cranky” Franky versus the “Silver Bodgie”, 1974

Frank Sinatra first pissed off Australians when he pulled out of a 1957 Lee Gordon tour at the last moment. But that was nothing compared with what happened when he came to Australia in 1974. Having been chased for three days by the local press, the 58-year-old singer took to the stage for his first concert at Melbourne’s Festival Hall and hit back “his way” during an interval by denigrating his media tormentors as “fags”, “parasites”, “pimps” and “hookers”.

The Australian Journalists’ Association demanded an apology and when it wasn’t forthcoming the rest of the nation’s unions banned their members from providing any service to Sinatra whatsoever. “If you don’t apologise your stay in this country could be indefinite,” then ACTU president (and later Prime Minister) Bob Hawke told the singer. “You won’t be allowed to leave Australia unless you can walk on water.”

Sinatra and his entourage flew back to Sydney on a commercial flight under assumed names and holed up in the Boulevard Hotel. After three tense days under siege, Ol’ Blue Eyes agreed to the Silver Bodgie’s watered-down plan for a kinda-sorta apology to fans inconvenienced by the cancellation of the second Melbourne concert. His Sydney gig went ahead and Sinatra flew out of the country. “A funny thing happened in Australia,” he’d later tell a New York audience. “I made a mistake and got off the plane.”